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Stephanie Tibelius and Monica Bennett are incoming co-chairs of Hamilton Health Sciences new Pride Employee Affinity Group. They're holding a flag representing the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community.
Stephanie Tibelius and Monica Bennett are incoming co-chairs of Hamilton Health Sciences new Pride Employee Affinity Group. They’re holding a flag representing the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community.
June 1, 2023

New HHS Pride Employee Affinity Group helps create safer space

For Pride Month in June, we’re pleased to profile Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS)’ new Pride Employee Affinity Group.

Affinity groups provide HHS staff and doctors who have common lived experiences with an opportunity to come together, get to know colleagues and share in advocacy work. There are also affinity groups for Black staff and women physicians, and HHS will be expanding affinity groups in the coming months.

The Pride Employee Affinity Group, which formed in 2022 and meets virtually four times a year, offers members a space to connect, share resources and information, and work with the HHS Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Human Rights Team on projects and initiatives including Pride Month recognition. Meet four members of this new group, and find out what inspires them:

Stephanie Tibelius, affinity group co-chair (she/her)

Registered dietitian, Children’s Exercise & Nutrition Centre, HHS McMaster Children’s Hospital

“I’ve been part of EDI initiatives at HHS for some time and when the affinity groups were created I was excited to get further involved,” says Tibelius, the incoming co-chair along with Monica Bennett, a health promotional specialist for tobacco who’s based at HHS Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.

“I want to contribute to advocacy efforts aimed at changes that will make HHS a safer space for everyone including the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual) community,” says Tibelius.

The group’s work includes planning events and projects related to celebrating Pride Month at HHS. “We’re also working to establish pronouns on employee identification badges as one of our first major efforts,” says Tibelius, adding that she’s excited about contributing to real changes that create a welcoming space for HHS staff, patients and their families, whether through the affinity group or broader EDI team.

“What may seem like a small gesture, such as a Pride flag or pronoun pin on a lanyard can make a huge difference in making someone feel safe within a space,” says Tibelius. “I’m excited to collaborate with this group and see what we can accomplish.”

Monica Bennett, affinity group co-chair (she/her)  

Health promotional specialist for tobacco, HHS Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre

“Even in a city as large as Hamilton, there are few places for queer people to be in the community,” says Bennett. “Having a Pride affinity group at HHS is a way of making and expanding queer space.”

Helping to create a safe space is highly motivating, adds Bennett.

“I have hope that for queer people, feeling safe and supported at work means that they will feel more included, less alone and freer to be their whole selves at work. I also hope that our queer patients will benefit from the safety that our workers experience. I want them to feel safe from the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that directly and negatively affects their health.”

Bennett looks forward to building on the work of the hospital’s previous LGBTQ Task Force. “We proudly stand on shoulders of those who came before us,” she says. “Our group is still fairly new, so we’re still meeting each other, beginning to organize ourselves, and making plans for Pride Month recognition. This teamwork has given me an increased sense of pride for all queer folks.”

Mark Klassen (he/him)

Employee and labour relations administrator, HHS corporate office

Mark Klassen learned about the Pride affinity group through a co-worker and was eager to join. “It sounded like a great opportunity to get together with other community members within HHS to plan and work on company-wide initiatives,” says Klassen, a new member who joined last month.

“Having conversations about where we are and where we want to be — and how we’ll get there through collaboration as an organization — is what I am most excited for. Change is good!”

Having such an enthusiastic and active group is a win on its own, adds Klassen. “I’m so proud to work alongside such wonderful people who provide care not just for our patients, but for those employed by HHS too.”

Elizabeth Snow (she/her)

Social Worker for Cardiac Ambulatory Clinics, HHS Hamilton General Hospital

Elizabeth Snow was part of the earlier task force, so she was enthusiastic about joining the new affinity group. 

I wanted to be part of a group that was participating in advocacy,” says Snow.

Ideas the new group has discussed include having a Pride crosswalk outside of HHS hospital sites. “This idea is still in its infancy stages, but it’s something I’m very excited about,” says Snow, adding, “I’m passionate about advocacy and outside-the-box thinking.”

As for the group’s greatest accomplishments to date, Snow points out that it’s too early to say.  “We’re new, so our great accomplishments are to come.”